Although I am a former carrier sailor, I have had a long-standing appreciation for submarines and underwater warfare, from the pioneers and early craft to the latest technology afforded to the submariners of today. It takes something special in a person to go out to sea in a vessel designed to sink, and built by the lowest bidder (I had to get that one in), but those who have answered the call in the past, and those will do so in the future, are nothing less than courageous. The submarine has been in existence in one form or another for centuries, and similar to any other weapon of war, has developed into something that would astound the early inventors.
In Silent Killers, Submarines and Underwater Warfare, James P. Delgado takes the reader on a journey from the early days of submarine development up to the roles that submarines play today. The book is written in thirteen chapters entitled as follows: Chapter 1: Beginnings; Chapter 2: “Sub Marine Explorers”: Would-be Warriors; Chapter 3: Uncivil Warriors; Chapter 4: Missing Links; Chapter 5: Later 19thCentury Submarines; Chapter 6: Transition to a New Century; Chapter 7: Early 20thCentury Submarines; Chapter 8: World War I; Chapter 9: Submarines Between the Wars; Chapter 10: World War II: the Success of the Submarine; Chapter 11: Postwar Innovations: the Rise of Atomic Power; Chapter 12: The Ultimate Deterrent: the Role of the Submarine in the Modern Era; and Chapter 13: Memorializing the Submarine. In addition, there is an eight-page Introduction, nine pages of Notes, and twelve pages of Sources and a Select Bibliography.
The book contains one hundred and seventy-six black and white and color photographs and drawings with nearly something on every page from cover to cover (several are copies of old lithographs, and some are war-time posters). There are photographs of a recreation of David Bushnell’s Turtle, which I found intriguing, as well as the photograph of the recovered HL Hunley inside a treatment tank. There are plenty of in-action photographs, as well as pictures of submarines that are on public display. The cut-away drawings are a nice touch, as are the patent drawings, and renderings of some of the first submarines developed.
As an explorer of shipwrecks, Mr. Delgado is very experienced with what lies beneath the waves of our oceans and seas, and he is the Executive Director of the Institute of Nautical Archaeology. His style of writing did a great job of keeping my interest as I read along, and his research into the stories of some early submarine experiments was very insightful, and entertaining. The book is written on a level that does not require a great deal of technical knowledge to appreciate, but is written to appeal to the typical history buff or researcher (read as modeler) who is interested in this topic.
Overall, I would highly recommend this book to any person who holds an interest in submarines or submarine warfare as this is a very informative publication. The art and photography are very good, as one would expect from the folks at Osprey, and there are plenty of these items spread throughout the book.
I would like to thank the folks at Osprey Publishing for providing this book to the IPMS-USA for review, and I greatly appreciate having been afforded the opportunity to write this appraisal. As always, thanks to you the reader for taking the time to read my comments.